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Healthcare as a workplace: 5 ways workplace strategy can impact healthcare design

Healthcare as a workplace: 5 ways workplace strategy can impact healthcare design

By Samantha Gotta | Stantec | September 27, 2019

The Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where natural light and views are abundant. Extensive use of glass on the north and south facades brings daylight into corridors, care stations, and staff workrooms. (Stantec/William Rawn Associates)

In recent decades, our relationship with the workplace has been transformed by the tech industry, which upturned our idea of the office. Today, organizations across a spectrum of industries plan spaces that support the well-being of their employees while enjoying the benefits of talent attraction and retention.

As healthcare organizations place increasing importance on patient experience and quality care, it is easy to forget that healthcare facility is a workplace, too. It is a place where professionals, experts, staff, and clients come together for a common purpose and where efficiency, process, and results are valued. Effective employers recognize that employees are an organization’s greatest asset and design their practices and policies to benefit both the employees and the organization.

Today, healthcare organizations are in a similar situation to many businesses. New models for funding and compensation mean that healthcare teams are being asked by their organizations to do more with less time and space. Many healthcare organizations we collaborate with share similar goals with our corporate clients. They tell us they want to improve ethics, performance, and community.

What can healthcare organizations do? Healthcare organizations have an opportunity to respond to financial pressure and competitive challenges with improved workplace design strategies to attract and retain the best talent. By doing so, they’re also engaging and invigorating care teams already in place in their mission to improve health and wellness in their communities.

What do workplace and healthcare design have in common? More than you might initially think. They share a common set of drivers: changing business models, globalization, demographics, need for talent, evolving technology, connectivity/mobility, team safety, and the need for efficient and effective processes. As with any workplace-design project, successful healthcare workplace design requires a strong vision and a powerful approach to branding, space usage, and creation of opportunities for engagement.

So, what are the basic elements and best practices that create a high-performing workplace? And how do these relate to the healthcare workplace? Here are five approaches we have developed in workplace strategy and design to keep in mind when renovating or designing a new healthcare work space.


1. Look for opportunities to create multiuse spaces

Designers must understand the program needs of their client but also question them when appropriate. Many users will assume they need to replicate each of their current spaces in a new design without considering their actual usage or alternatives.

That kind of thinking risks duplicating outdated space.

To design an optimal facility, we need to research how spaces are being utilized, if they’re used at all, and if they can serve dual or multiple purposes. Designers must balance creating spaces that can serve multiple functions with the need for dedicated and inspiring spaces.  


2. Increase utilization

A successful healthcare-delivery model balances financial considerations and focused patient care.

We can design to help achieve this balance by combining like spaces together, making the space efficient for the task at hand, and optimizing operational flow. For example, if there is storage in the room that is underutilized, does it need to be kept in the space or can it be moved to an adjacent area or purged altogether?

By increasing the efficiency of space utilization and care team travel distances, design can enhance patient care and shorten wait times.


3. Integrate technology

To remain competitive, organizations need to stay on top of the latest tech trends and incorporate them into patient treatment, especially as quality of care becomes more crucial to profitability and survival. 

For example, not every room needs the highest quality audiovisual equipment. We can find savings for our clients by avoiding duplication of expensive equipment. If we recognize that departments can share, we can save both money and square footage.

Also, consider the generational gap in care-team members. Take advantage of the tech-savvy, team-based learning style of the Gen Y staff to recruit and retain, but do not eliminate the traditional way of working or knowledge-sharing of their senior colleagues.


The American Academy of Pediatrics in Itasca, Illinois is designed for generational diversity. This headquarters facility includes different work spaces for various work styles.


4. Build in flexibility

As technology, the workforce, and research quickly morphs, it’s important that healthcare designers incorporate flex space to meet a range of ever-changing demands. Often this means we are tasked with creating an expansion space or build-on module that allows for the addition to or duplication of high-demand areas as needed.


5. Direct resources toward the primary mission

We can bundle department budgets and save money by combining new research areas, collaboration spaces, and support resource areas. This frees up funds for portions of the project that weren’t in the original scope that ultimately must support the healthcare organization’s mission of patient care.


Why design healthcare space as workplace space

Design for healthcare has advanced over the decades, incorporating more evidence-based and patient-centered care, as well as an emphasis on providing natural light and views.

But there are still some areas that need attention. The patient rooms may be different today but much of the healthcare space has remained the same. But by looking at our healthcare institutions as places of work, we can reimagine them, ultimately improving the day-to-day environment for the care team and outcomes for their patients.   

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